A Titan II ICBM in an underground silo. (Steve Jurvetson/Flickr, CC 2.0.)
It’s been a wild news week, what with Israel’s attack on Syria, the gruesome kidnap/rape tragedy emerging from Cleveland and then the circus surroundiing the Benghazi hearings. We won’t even mention Jodi Arias, whoever that is. Sadly overlooked, however, was an exclusive from the Associated Press. Oh, no big deal. Just “rot” and “crisis” and a wave of firings in one program you especially don’t want to witness this in: our nuclear missle launch program.
At Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota the commander confirmed, as the story put it, “the willful violation of safety rules—including a possible compromise of launch codes—was tolerated.” Seventeen members of launch crews have been fired, an unprecedented action in its scope.
Lt. Col. Jay Folds, deputy commander of the 91st Operations Group, responsible for Minuteman 3 missile launch crews at Minot, cited disturbingly poor reviews that they received in a March inspection. “We are, in fact, in a crisis right now,” Folds wrote in the e-mail to his subordinates. Yet beyond routine publishing for the AP scoop, little media attention followed.
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel demanded an explanation. Senator Dick Durbin said the issue “could not be more troubling.” The Air Force, perhaps trying to calm fears but only stoking them, revealed that the missiles were still on war footing.
As I’ve done for, oh, the past thirty years, in numeous articles and three books, this is where I remind readers that the US still has a first-strike nuclear policy, and thousands of nuclear weapons, more than two decades after the end of the Cold War—and that we have used nuclear weapons before, setting (and for most Americans, defending) a precedent.
Greg Mitchell’s new book is Hollywood Bomb. His previous books on this subject were Atomic Cover-up and, with Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America.
The New York Times is again pushing for war in the Middle East, while McClatchy news outlets are again advising caution, Greg Mitchell writes.
Suspected Boston bombers the Tsarnaev brothers. (Courtesy of Wikimedia.)
Can we stop talking about “connecting dots”?
I’m all for investigating and catching terrorists, especially before they do their evil deeds. At the same time, however—as the latest reports about the bombings at the Boston Marathon show—“connecting dots” can often be a euphemism for overly intrusive, civil liberties-violating snooping, spying, and deployment of government and FBI infiltrators, provocateurs, and worse.
The New York Times reports today that the FBI “did not tell the Boston police about the 2011 warning from Russia about Tamerlan Tsarnaev,” and it adds:
Had [the Boston police department] learned about the tip, in which Russian officials said that Mr. Tsarnaev had embraced radical Islam and intended to travel to Russia to connect with underground groups, “we would certainly look at the individual,” [Police] Commissioner [Edward] Davis told the House Homeland Security Committee.
Wow. Let’s unpack that for a second.
First of all, since 9/11 there has been a huge and unprecedented expansion of city and state police intelligence units, many of which engage in something close to outright spying. The idea that the Boston police department ought to be shadowing every person who has committed no crime, merely on the basis of tip from the notoriously excessive and unreliable Russian secret service—especially after the FBI, which investigated Tsarnaev and questioned him and his family—is scary. In addition, so far at least, we have no idea just how many potential “terrorists” the Russians have warned us about. It can’t be only the Tsarnaevs. Dozens? Hundreds? No other bombs have gone off since 9/11. Do we want police departments tracking innocent people?
Second, at least some of this is driven by politics. The very committee that Commissioner David testified in front of is controlled by radical-right Republican extremists who can’t wait to find some flaw in the administration’s handling of the Tsarnaev case so they can use it against the president. These are the same bizarre, obsessive Republicans who have sunk their teeth into a utter non-scandal over the September 11, 2012, assault on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, and won’t let go. The Times quotes Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican on the committee, who says:
We learned over a decade ago the danger of failing to connect the dots. My fear is that the Boston bombers may have succeeded because our system failed.
Maybe, but the fact is that we don’t want to live in a country where we have 100-percent effectiveness against terrorism, because that would be a police state.
Third, let’s stop talking about close cooperation with the Russian secret police. I don’t trust Russia’s oppressive secret services one bit, certainly far less than I trust the FBI and the CIA, and that isn’t very much. It is true that Moscow is battling an incipient Islamist revolt in the Caucasus region of southern Russia, in Chechnya, Dagestan and elsewhere. However, their version of how to fight that insurgency is akin to Bashar al-Assad’s version, namely, kill anything that moves. And in many ways, the insurgency in southern Russia, to the extent that it has migrated from nationalism and separatism to some version of radical Islamism a la Al Qaeda, is Russia’s doing. But engaging in ethnic cleaning and destruction of whole cities and towns in Chechnya and elsewhere since 1994, the Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin did a lot to create the vary radicalism that Putin is now fighting. Let’s give the FBI credit, perhaps, for trying to distinguish between a real tip from the Russians and a spurious one.
At yesterday’s dog-and-pony show in Congress, the Republicans—backed by an old ally, neoconservative former Senator Joe Lieberman—tried to wave the bloody Boston shirt about “stove-piping” and the FBI’s alleged failure to alert the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston to the Tsarnaevs. Never mind that the FBI, after looking into Tsarnaev, found nothing. Said Lieberman, in typical high dudgeon, finger-wagging:
The fact that neither the FBI nor the Department of Homeland Security notified the local members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force is really a serious and aggravating omission.
Well, no, it’s not.
In addition, as more information begins to emerge about Tsarnaev’s 2012 visit to Russia, it appears as if the radical Islamists that he came into contact didn’t try to radicalize him but the reverse. Reports The Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Tsarnaev … got a cool reception from some of the Islamists he hoped to bond with. … While Mr. Tsarnaev did find a circle of friends, some congregants at the Salafist mosque dismissed him as strange. Others said they feared his brashness would attract even more attention to them from Russian authorities.
And the Times adds:
On Sunday agents from the Federal Security Service [FSB], the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, interrogated Mr. Tsarnaev’s cousin, who is in police custody, asking if he impressed the young man with “extremist” views, his lawyer said.
But the cousin, Magomed Kartashov, told them it was the other way around. In interviews, several young men here agreed, saying that Mr. Kartashov spent hours trying to stop Mr. Tsarnaev from “going to the forest,” or joining one of the militant cells scattered throughout the volatile region, locked in low-level guerrilla warfare with the police.
Meanwhile, the Russian security services apparently killed several of the people that Tsarnaev had contact with. Whether they were actual terrorists or just radical Islamists with anti-Moscow (and anti-Washington, perhaps) views can’t be known. Like those killed by American drones, who are often mere radicals who may or may not hate the United States, those killed by the Russians may or may not be guilty of anything other than crossing the FSB.
So, yes, let’s collect and connect the dots. Just not every dot, everywhere, all the time.
Rather than help the Russians track people who have committed to crime, we should engage with them on finding a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict, Robert Dreyfuss writes.
Four updates appear below.
Hundreds of Detroit fast food workers plan to walk off the job beginning at 6 am today, making the motor city the fourth in five weeks to see such strikes. Organizers expect participants from at least sixty stores, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, Little Caesar’s, and Popeye’s locations. Like this week’s strike in St. Louis, and last month’s in New York and Chicago, today’s work stoppage is backed by a local coalition including the Service Employees International Union, and the participants are demanding a raise to $15 an hour and the chance to form a union without intimidation.
Organizers say that over a hundred workers joined the St. Louis strike between Wednesday and Thursday. That included a group of Jimmy John’s workers who alleged that management humiliated them by requiring them to hold up signs in public with messages including “I made 3 wrong sandwiches today” and “I was more than 13 seconds in the drive thru.” “Sometimes I walk for more than an hour just to save my train fare so I can spend it on Ramen noodles,” St. Louis Chipotle worker Patrick Leeper said in an e-mailed statement Thursday. “I can’t even think about groceries.”
A spokesperson for Jimmy John’s declined to comment on Thursday’s strike. McDonald’s did not respond to a Tuesday inquiry about the fast food campaign; Wendy’s did not respond to an inquiry last night.
As I’ve written elsewhere, the fate of the fast food strike wave carries far-reaching implications: Fast food jobs are a growing portion of our economy, and fast food–like conditions are proliferating in other sectors as well. Organizers say the fast food industry now employs twice as many Detroit-area workers as the city’s iconic auto industry. These strikes also come at a moment of existential crisis for the labor movement, a sobering reality that was brought into sharp relief in December when Michigan, arguably the birthplace of modern US private sector unionism, became the country’s latest “right to work” state.
Along with a shared significant supporter—SEIU—the campaigns in New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit have apparent strategies in common. Rather than waiting until they’ve built support from a majority of a store’s or company’s workers, they stage actions by a minority of the workforce designed to inspire their co-workers. Rather than publicly identifying the campaign and its organizers with a single international union, these union-funded efforts turn to allied community groups to spearhead organizing. Rather than training all their resources on a single company, they organize against all of the industry’s players at once. And—faced with legal and economic assaults that have weakened the strike weapon—these campaigns mount one-day work stoppages that are carefully tailored to maximize attention and minimize, but not eliminate, the risk that workers will lose their jobs.
Whether these strategies can ever compel a fast food giant to negotiate with its employees remains to be seen.
“After what I would consider well over three decades of wage suppression, workers in this particular industry—and then I think it’ll go to others—are realizing that their only way up the wage ladder is through their own organizations,” CUNY labor studies lecturer Ed Ott said Wednesday. Ott, a board member of the community organizing group that spearheaded the New York fast food strike, added, “The only way these workers are going to be able to advance these jobs is through unionization. And I think that idea has finally gotten traction.”
Update (9:15 am Friday): According to the campaign, a walkout by twenty workers at Detroit’s 10400 Gratiot Avenue McDonald’s prevented the store from operating. Some workers brought in as strikebreakers to replace those striking workers chose to join the strike instead.
Organizers say that by day’s end, today’s strike could be the largest fast food work stoppage yet, topping last month’s 400-strong strike in New York.
Update (11:50 am): Along with the Gratiot Avenue McDonald’s, organizers say that strikes shut down at least three others stores: a McDonald’s on Van Dyke; a Long John Silver’s on 8 Mile; and a Popeye’s on Grand River, where strikers were joined by US Congressman John Conyers. Strikers plan to converge for rallies at 1 and 4 this afternoon.
McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Chipotle, and Long John Silver’s did not immediately respond to requests for comment this morning.
Update (2:05 pm Friday): The campaign now says there are over 400 workers on strike in Detroit, making today’s action the largest fast food strike in US history. That figure includes workers who woke up today planning to work and then changed their mind; at one McDonald’s store, the campaign says eight workers decided at the last minute to join the strike after watching four of their co-workers walk off the job.
In an e-mailed statement, McDonald’s worker Nathaniel Gaines said that after management called him into work early to break the strike, he decided upon arrival to join the work stoppage instead. “I am constantly training new workers, while working the grill at the same time, all at minimum wage,” said Gaines. “Management always changes my hours, so I never have a consistent paycheck…The strike made me feel empowered to do the right thing for myself and my son.”
Update (3:30 pm Friday): In an e-mailed statement, McDonald’s said, “We value and respect all the employees who work at McDonald’s restaurants. The majority of McDonald’s restaurants across the country are owned and operated by independent business men and women where employees are paid competitive wages, and have access to flexible schedules and quality, affordable benefits.” The statement, which also touts “training and professional development opportunities” for workers who want to advance to management, is the same one provided by the company regarding protests in New York and Chicago last month. A McDonald’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Nation’s follow-up inquiry regarding the company’s stance on the strikers’ demands; whether management would meet with the striking workers; and whether any strikers would be punished or “permanently replaced.”
For more on this week’s strike in St. Louis, read Annie Shields’s report.
Peter DeFazio (Flickr/Oregon DOT)
Congressman Peter DeFazio has always been a stalwart defender of the United States Postal Service. As a veteran lawmaker and one of its most determined advocates for public services in the House, he knows that the postal service is an essential asset. But he also knows that the USPS “is in a financial death spiral, caused largely by congressional and bureaucratic ineptitude and inaction.”
“Over 70 percent of USPS financial losses are due to a Congressional mandate to prefund retiree healthcare for future employees for the next 75 years. This requires the post office to prefund the healthcare of future employees that have not yet been born. This is stupid and unacceptable,” explains DeFazio .“Rather than avoiding this financial crisis they face, USPS bureaucrats have only offered short-sighted proposals that fail to address their long-term issues and would accelerate the demise of the Postal Service.”
The congressman has battled the bureaucrats with some success. Along with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan, DeFazio was in the forefront of the successful fight to block the postmaster general’s wrongheaded proposal to end Saturday mail delivery. He even found some rural Republican allies for that skirmish.
But the Oregon Democrat knows it’s going to take more than defensive moves by Congress to save the USPS.
To that end, DeFazio has introduced the Postal Service Protection Act, a detailed proposal to “sustain the postal service, avoid unnecessary closures that hurt rural communities, and save American jobs.”
Now, he wants to up the ante by enlisting President Obama in the struggle—or, to be more precise, he’s come up with a strategy to get the president more engaged with saving the postal service.
Obama has sent some good signals; indeed, his budget borrows ideas advanced by Sanders and DeFazio for making the USPS more competitive.
But the congressman is right to want the president to play a more pivotal role in saving post offices and sorting centers, rural routes and urban facilities, from a death by slow cuts. The stronger and louder the support from Obama, the greater the likelihood that the Postal Service Protection Act—which has the potential to gain support from disengaged Democrats and reluctant Republicans—could be enacted.
So DeFazio has taken the rare step—as a congressman—of posting a petition on the Obama administration’s “We the People” website.
About 80% of USPS financial losses since 2007 are due to a Congressional mandate to prefund 75 years of future retiree health benefits over 10 years. In 2012 USPS lost a record $15.9 billion, but $11.1 billion of that loss went to prefund healthcare. This must change.
USPS shouldn’t move to 5-day delivery. This would only save 3%, risk further revenue losses, and slow mail delivery.
USPS needs to re-establish overnight delivery standards to ensure the timely delivery of mail and prevent the closure of mail plants.
USPS needs to generate more revenue by ending a 2006 ban prohibiting USPS from offering new products and services.
Does the Administration support HR 630 and S 316 to make these changes, save American jobs, and allow USPS to remain competitive?
To get a formal response from the White House, the petition must gather 100,000 signatures by May 23.
Almost 20,000 people have already signed. But now it’s crunch time.
“If you support the postal service and want Congress and the White House to consider legislation that would fix the serious financial challenges it faces,” says DeFazio, “please sign the petition and tell your friends to as well.”
President Obama faces plenty of pressures these days, but this is one intervention he can and should make on behalf of American workers and communities.
The USPS cannot take many more cuts. Nor can it shoulder the financial burden that’s been imposed on it. This is a time for urgency. And Peter DeFazio, with his White House petition, has figured out how to focus the energy that is needed to beat the proponents of privatization and to save an essential public service.
Lobbyists are snagging top jobs in Congress—a boon for their former employers. Read Lee Fang’s report.
Tom Corbett speaks on the Pennsylvania state budget. (AP Photo/Bradley C. Bower)
After Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett proposed a 53 percent cut to the state’s 2011-2012 higher education budget, Millersville University President Francine McNairy sent an urgent campus-wide email. Corbett’s “massive cuts are upsetting,” she wrote on March 8, 2011. “We at Millersville are encouraging our students and their families, our faculty, staff and alumni to contact their local legislators and urge them to advocate on behalf of public higher education in Pennsylvania.” On March 28, the men’s cross country team ran a 40-mile relay from Millersville to the state capitol, where they met up with thousands of students and workers from across the state for “United We Stand, Underfunded We Fail.” Three months later, the Republican state legislature lowered a smaller axe—18 percent. Still, this would cost Millersville $6.34 million, including, despite their triumphant, crowd-parting display, all three men’s track teams.
This was Millersville’s first austerity-on-acid trip—a departure from previous, even Republican, administrations. Between 1985 and 2011, the state’s share of its budget plummeted from 60 percent to 25 percent; students’ contribution went from 40 percent to 75 percent. In 2010, Tea Partier Tom Corbett came in to sweep away whatever was left of the state’s blue economy. In 2011, the state cut public education by $860 million (after a Corbett-proposed $1.2 billion), hitting already under-resourced districts, like Philadelphia, the hardest. In 2012, Corbett scrapped the state’s General Assistance fund, a direct subsidy that mostly benefited people with disabilities. Meanwhile, the governor’s 2013-2014 budget, in keeping with previous years, includes a $68 million increase in operating funds and $166 million in capital projects for the Department of Corrections. For Pennsylvanians, these are known quantities: this year, Corbett earned the lowest approval rating in the eighteen-year history of the Franklin & Marshall poll (18 percent). His appearances in Philadelphia are routinely protested. (A September 19 town hall at the Museum of Art was sidelined by chants of “We want education, not incarceration!” and “Corbett go home!”)
Naturally, then, the man Millersville has chosen to usher graduating seniors into the world of debt and unemployment is the same one who rules it: Tom Corbett.
For those who have borne the brunt of Pennsylvania’s austerity politics, Corbett’s anointment as commencement speaker is a slap in the face. “The audacity for someone to bring him in to speak to us—I feel like it’s disrespectful, it’s a cruel joke,” says fifth-year senior Kyle Johnson, who has dealt with cuts to his campus work hours and financial aid issues. “But, you know, the university is a business. You come to find that out once you go along.” On March 8, Johnson received a less-than-reassuring email from Jerry Eckert, chairman of the Commencement Speaker Committee, reading, “I know this note will not satisfy you…this is an opportunity to demonstrate to the Governor and others what a fine University and its students are—a worthy investment by the state!”
An opportunity, indeed—for people like Jerry Eckert. In the weeds of Corbett’s selection are hints of old-boy patronage, a business decision based on shifty insider trading.
Two figures stand out. The first is Eckert, Millersville’s Vice President for Advancement—and an appointed member of Governor Corbett’s higher education committee. The second is Kevin Harley, a 1986 Millersville grad who doubles as a member of the Millersville University Council of Trustees and Corbett’s sitting press secretary. With these gubernatorial ties, the logic of Millersville’s “demonstration” works both ways. For someone whose infamy stems from the unpopularity of his budgetary decisions, Corbett’s selection gives him the opportunity to enter the politically no-frills space of a graduation ceremony and trumpet his abstract devotion to the state’s shrinking education system.
If Corbett’s selection is an under-the-table political play, Millersville has followed in step—violating its own bylaws in the process. For the commencement committee that Eckert chairs, which comprises students, faculty and administrators, “The terms of office begin 1 October, and the committee shall meet at least one time per year, usually during the fall semester, but at other times at the call of the convener or a majority of the members of the committee.” But according to university spokesperson Janet Kacskos, “They haven’t met in the last couple years.” Millersville has “a standing list of folks we’d like to speak at commencement,” she told The Nation, and as sitting governor, Corbett’s appearance is significant.
Eckert issued an apology to the president of the student senate (but not the university at large) for failing to follow procedure. Meanwhile, the governor’s overt stance on his selection has been collegial—that is, apolitical. “His commencement addresses are not—he’s not going to talk about budgets, he’s going to talk about the accomplishments of the students,” says Harley, who dismisses suggestions of any political maneuvering. “He considers it an honor to speak.”
For faculty and students, the university’s apologies are stacking up. At Millersville—and universities the world over—command-and-control governance is part-and-parcel of unforgiving budget politics. Over spring break, the university bulldozed “the Bush,” a patch of forest on campus used for biology research, to make way for a new student housing project. The Friday before the break, all faculty members were emailed about the move—far too late for any to speak up. In November, Millersville’s Council of Trustees overruled the school’s Presidential Search Committee in nominating a slate of potential new presidents for the state to choose from—a possible violation of Pennsylvania Act 188.
“It has become a slippery slope of people being disenfranchised,” says Jill Craven, a Millersville English professor. “There’s an old boys network that works in a particular way. It’s another thing when administrators want to take advantage of that.” Faculty have also felt the blunter edge of the Corbett axe. In March, the union representing the fourteen schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) settled contract negotiations with the state—after nearly two years of negotiations and a November vote authorizing a strike.
What to do about Corbett at commencement?
When the governor spoke at Albright College in 2011, the faculty voted unanimously not to grant him an honorary degree—despite that Albright is a private school that’s off the governor’s operating table. At Millersville, the top-down governance that set the stage for Corbett’s selection has lit a fire under campus dissenters.
Over the course of the semester, student organizers have met with faculty members, faculty union representatives, students from other PASSHE schools and alumni. A SignOn.org petition saying that Corbett “does not deserve the honor of speaking at our ceremony” has amassed over 2,200 signatures (nearly half the size of the Millersville student body). “We have fostered a dialogue amongst ourselves to drive democracy in action,” says Rizzo Mertz, a 2011 Millersville grad. “The amount of collaboration among students, alumni and faculty has been fantastic.”
Come commencement, students and allies plan to stand silently and turn their backs on the governor when he speaks. “He turned his back on us, so we’re going to turn our backs on him, and show him what it feels like in public,” Mertz says.
Mertz has also filed right-to-know requests with the state, PASSHE and the university for documents related to the presidential search and commencement selection. In April, the state rejected most of Mertz’s requests, but did return now-former President McNairy’s November invitation to Corbett, which applauds his “successful professional career” and “commitment to community involvement.”
“Our students and staff are highly respectful,” Kacskos says, about the commencement stirrings. “They all believe in diverse opinions and free speech.”
“This isn’t a matter of free speech,” Mertz rejoins. “It’s a matter of self-respect.”
In the neoliberal university, speech may be free, but it’s also profitable. At a commencement ceremony, speakers have an ideal opportunity to make bank. With no room for rebuttal, counter-speech must be off the premises (as with “alternative commencement” ceremonies) or a silent jam.
Score one for Tom Corbett.
But score another for the forces of popular resentment—who, at an event where imagery trumps debate, don’t seem willing to give the governor’s image back.
For first-person takes on student uprising across the country, read StudentNation's Dispatches From the US Student Movement.
A missing person poster for Amanda Berry, one of the three kidnapped women found alive in Cleveland. (Reuters/John Gress.)
In just the last few days, we’ve seen a series of news stories involving violence against women. The violence comes in different forms—physical, psychological, financial—and from different quarters—a former school-bus driver in Cleveland, the NRA convention in Houston, the military, Congress—and so it’s not surprising that the media, as usual, are delivering these stories as unrelated incidents. But arriving almost simultaneously, these tales of misogyny should jolt us all to connect the dots and to shine an unblinking light on the violence against women that’s always there, just below the surface.
The story of the three Cleveland women who were found alive after being held captive (and, by all accounts, raped, beaten and bound) in a neighbor’s house for ten years is the most shocking. The suspect, Ariel Castro, 52, reportedly let them outside only twice in all that time. Michelle Knight was 20 when she disappeared in 2002, Amanda Berry had been reported missing in 2003 when she was 16, and Gina DeJesus vanished at age 14 in 2004 on her way home from school. Berry’s mother died in 2006 of what friends say was “a broken heart” less than two years after a psychic on The Montel Williams Show told her Amanda was dead. DeJesus’s mother believed her daughter had been sold into the sex trade. On Monday, Berry and her 6-year-old daughter (possibly fathered by Castro) escaped with the help of neighbors Charles Ramsey and Angel Cordero. The other women came out shortly after. Berry and DeJesus are now home, while Knight remains in the hospital.
As this story unfolds, it will serve as fascinating cable TV filler: We’ll learn more of the horrific details and get to know the victims, their friends and families, and the suspect; we’ll urge neighbors to keep a closer eye on each other; and hopefully we’ll learn why the police didn’t follow earlier leads. But this shouldn’t be treated as just the latest incredibly sad and sensational crime story, as if it were devoid of social and political context—or unrelated to the other news of anti-women violence that accompanied it this week.
When I first saw the photo of a freed Amanda Berry with her sister and daughter, and tried to imagine the women’s unimaginable captivity, I couldn’t get another set of images out of my mind—that of “The Ex,” a target mannequin that squirts blood when you shoot her. “The Ex” (variously called “The Ex-Girlfriend” and “Alexa”) is a large-breasted white woman, her clothes party ripped off, blood dripping from her mouth down her cleavage, and she was sold with other “bleeding zombie targets” at the NRA convention in Houston last weekend. A target mannequin that looks like Obama painted green (one happy customer calls him “Barry” in a video that has been removed) also made the news. Buzzfeed reported that the NRA asked the vendor, Zombie Industries, to remove it from display, but it continued to be sold, a reminder of the racism that fuels the pro-gun paranoia. But the NRA didn’t object to displaying “The Ex,” and she still appears on the company’s website, where one commenter writes, “This Zombie Bitch is awesome, reminds me of a girl I knew in High School.”
Here is “The Ex”:
And here she is after getting shot up:
Up until yesterday Amazon was also selling the $89.99 product. (“Great for a bachelor party!” read the only five-star review. “This was a very original, cool way to kick off a bachelor party for a firearm enthusiast, such as myself.”)
Noting that “‘The Ex’ shooting target turns violence against women into a joke and promotes the idea that men should want to kill their ex-wives or ex-girlfriends,” the activist group Ultra Violet petitioned Amazon to stop selling it. In less than 24 hours, 63,000 people signed and “The Ex” was gone.
A similar, if real-life, ex target was Grimilda Figueroa, the former wife of kidnap suspect Ariel Castro. Castro was accused of beating Figueroa, breaking her nose twice, knocking out a tooth, dislocating her shoulders and threatening to kill her and their children, according to a filing in Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court. The filing also said that Castro “frequently abducts [his] daughters and keeps them from mother/petitioner/legal custodian.” [UPDATE re misogynists and mannequins, from AP: Castro kept a life-sized, wigged mannequin around to scare Figueroa and others. He'd sometimes drive around with it, and he once told a young nephew of his: "Act up again, you'll be in that back room with the mannequin."]
Figueroa’s brother, Jose Figueroa, told RadarOnline that in 1996 Grimilda and her children with Castro fled from him to a battered women’s shelter. “If she stayed with Ariel, he would have killed her,” Jose said. “She had gone to the hospital and called the police many times but they never did anything.” (Grimilda remarried and moved out long before Castro allegedly kidnapped the three women; she died of cancer last year.)
If Jose Figueroa’s account is accurate, his sister may have saved her life and her children’s, as so many abused women do, by finding refuge in a women’s shelter. But, as we learned this week, men who abuse women will be able to corner them even more easily: The sequester is cutting some $20 million of funding for women’s shelters and protection programs over the next year.
Like all sequester cuts that don’t involve airplane delays, the cuts to shelters are not making the national news, but they are locally. From KSL.com in Utah:
Julee Smith, the director of Your Community Connection in Ogden, said she works with people every day who are running from violent situations. She said many abuse victims need a place to stay, and due to the lack of funding, she has had to start turning them away,
“We literally had a lady call, she had four children and begged to get in our shelter,” Smith said. “She said, ‘I have 45 minutes to get out.’ And we said ‘We’re sorry, we don’t have any room.’ And then the police call and say that she has been abused again.”
Tim Murphy of Mother Jones cites other shelters and domestic violence programs that are being reduced or completely eliminated in Louisiana, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Oregon and other states. “The projections are bleak,” he writes.
Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) office estimates that 70,120 fewer domestic violence victims will have access to recovery programs and shelters; 35,900 fewer people will get help obtaining non-shelter services such as restraining orders and sexual assault treatment. Cuts to programs related to the Victims Against Crime Act will hurt another 310,574 people.
This increased danger to women has been made possible by the same pols, mostly Republicans, who are too scared of the NRA to pass an expansion of background checks, checks that would block sales of guns to anyone convicted of domestic violence, among other crimes.
And you know that big-shock Pentagon report released Tuesday that estimates 26,000 sexual assaults took place in the armed forces in 2012, a 37 percent increase over 2010? The report that also said fewer than 10 percent of the sex-assault cases end with a conviction at court-martial, while 62 percent of victims who dare to report an assault are rewarded with retaliation?
Well, expect those stats to get worse. The sequester is putting on hold Department of Defense plans to hire 829 “sexual assault response coordinators.” Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff Ray Odierno told the Senate Armed Forces Committee last month that sequestration will hurt efforts to reduce sexual harassment and assault in the Army in many ways, from “slowing hiring actions to delaying lab results, which hinders our ability to provide resolution for victims.”
Of course, as we also learned this week, the value of some of those sexual assault response coordinators is questionable to begin with. On Sunday, Lt. Col Jeffrey Krusinski, the chief of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, was arrested in a northern Virginia parking lot for sexual assault. A police report says that Krusinski, 41, was drunk and had grabbed a woman’s breast and buttocks. She fought him off, and his mug shot has the cuts to prove it.
While millions of men worldwide and the institutionalized male establishment at large still believe it’s their right to subjugate women, let’s not leave the impression that only women are victims. In the Pentagon report above, an estimated 13,900 of the 1.2 million active duty men said they had experienced some form of sexual assault in the past year (a far smaller portion than the active duty women). About a quarter of the victims of non-family child abductions are boys. And from 1994 to 2010, about four in five victims of intimate partner violence were female, according to the Bureau of Justice stats. But that leaves one in five victims to be men.
As if to prove the exception to the female-victim rule, there’s Jodi Arias. She was found guilty yesterday of first-degree murder of her ex, Travis Alexander. It was a particularly gruesome murder, with a heavy sexual backstory. A media circus, led by CNN’s sister channel HLN, has been making ecstatic noises over the trial’s every salacious detail.
When the Cleveland story broke Monday, it was hard to tell if HLN resented it for overshadowing the climax of its Jodi Arias witch-burning or welcomed it as a replacement now that the Arias show is winding down.
But instead of another media circus over the story in Cleveland, let’s see if the media and its audience—that is, all of us—can more seriously address the violence against women that is woven into our culture and that politicians in Washington threaten to make worse.
While the Senate moved quickly to end furloughs that were causing air traffic delays, most of the sequester's effects continue, under-reported and unseen, Leslie Savan writes.
This past March, a Philadelphia man named Christopher Knafelc jumped onto the train tracks at a local SEPTA station to save a man who had fallen off the platform and into harm’s way. His story quickly became a tale of heroism and redemption; Knafelc, it turned out, was a “recovering drug addict with a long rap sheet,” according to the Associated Press, a man who “often wondered if he was a good person.”
The answer was yes: Knafelc’s act of bravery meant he could hold “his head a little higher, viewing the good deed he did, and the praise that followed, as another sign that he is on the right path in life,” according to the AP. “It did help reinforce that I’m a good person,” Knafelc said. “I questioned that a lot because of my colorful past.”
This past included charges of theft, a DUI and child endangerment. But the media narrative was clear and feel-good. Knafelc’s act of heroism had redeemed him, proved his worth to society. “It’s amazing,” a transit worker told reporters. “This incident may be the start of really good things for him.”
Knafelc, who is white, is not nearly as well known as Wesley Autrey, the African-American “Subway Samaritan” who in 2007 achieved instant fame after he saved a 20-year-old film student on the train tracks in Harlem. Unlike Knafelc’s case, in which no train was pulling into the station, Autrey saw the lights of an oncoming train and nevertheless, threw himself over the man, lying in a drainage ditch as train cars passed over them. It was an extraordinary act of courage; Autrey was showered with praise and gifts; Donald Trump presented him with a check for $10,000 and saluted him in the pages of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People issue. He was even an honored guest at George W. Bush’s 2007 State of the Union Address, where he received a standing ovation.
It probably didn’t hurt that before he was hailed as a hero in such official quarters, Autrey was a “modest, hardworking construction worker” and Navy veteran who strived to be a parent to his kids, unlike his own father. “The world looks at black men as deadbeat dads,” he told New York magazine. “But that’s not me.”
But what if it was? What if it turned out that Autrey had a rap sheet like Knafelc’s? Worse, what if it turned out that he had a history of violence and had done time in prison for hurting people? Would “convicted felon” have trumped “hero”? Would he still have been welcome at the White House?
It took just one day for Charles Ramsey, the black man who helped save Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight from a ten-year living nightmare in a Cleveland home, to go from hero to “hero” in the press. “America is embracing the hardworking dishwasher,” the New York Daily News reported on May 8, calling him “America’s hero neighbor.” The next day, the Daily News headline read, “Cleveland ‘hero’ and Internet celeb Charles Ramsey has a criminal past.”
The new narrative turned on revelations that Ramsey is “a convicted felon whose rap sheet includes three separate domestic violence convictions that resulted in prison terms,” as the Smoking Gun revealed on Wednesday afternoon. As word spread and people considered the unfortunate “irony” that this man had committed violence against his wife, adulation turned toward disappointment, hand-wringing and bemusement. (“Perhaps, one might think, it’s unwise for a brand to want such a man as a spokesperson,” Time’s Brad Tuttle wrote in a post about a previously discussed McDonald’s endorsement.) Blog posts were hastily updated; others were written to maintain that he was still a hero, regardless of his past. “The fact that a convicted abuser intervened to stop abuse is a good thing, not a scandal,” Joan Walsh argued at Salon, while also leaving open the possibility that “more details may yet emerge to complicate Ramsey’s character.” (It would be “shameful,” she wrote, if it turned out that he knew anything about his neighbor’s crimes and stayed silent.) At Poynter, the episode was a lesson in “the dangers in lionizing someone at the heart of a breaking news event too soon.”
Behind the backlash against Ramsey was right-wing Cleveland radio host Dave Ramos, who first posted links to his Cuyahoga County criminal profile under the headline: “Hometown ‘Hero’: This Story Stinks.” Ramos insisted that the public was “being fooled” by Ramsey’s portrayal in the press and was determined to set things straight. (Never mind that he had no confirmation that the record he posted actually belonged to the correct Charles Ramsey—that was just a lucky guess.)
To Ramos, it was apparently intolerable that a man that looked, talked and acted like Ramsey could possibly be hailed as a hero. He didn’t bother trying to conceal his racism, citing dubious “sources” who told him that “Ramsey appeared on a local TV station accompanied by an entourage of more than a dozen men, would not budge from the TV station’s green room, and had to be escorted off of the station’s property by police.” In other words, he is not only criminal at the core, he is threatening and generally obnoxious. “He couldn’t freaking speak English!” Ramos said on Twitter, after boasting that he was the first to break the story about his criminal record.
But few seemed as eager to publicly revel in the exposure of Ramsey’s past, even commenters on Ramos’s website. Comments at the Smoking Gun were largely angry and indignant, demanding to know why anyone felt compelled to dig up dirt on a man whose actions were admirable, regardless. On Facebook, the Daily News reported, Ramsey’s ex-wife posted old photos of her former husband, writing, “Ok so for the record ppl do change and you shouldn’t hold the past against someone. The (main) thing is Charles Ramsey did a good deed and those girls are safe.”
Speaking on his own behalf, Ramsey told TMZ that his past actions “helped me become the man I am today and are the reason why I try to help the community as much as I can,” words that one blogger dismissed as a “valiant effort to put a positive spin on some despicable actions.” It makes sense that such a response might come off as self-serving; too many are willing to forgive domestic violence if it is committed by somebody whom people want to love and admire—see celebrities and sports heroes—and the blunt tools offered by the criminal justice system have proven woefully ineffective in addressing domestic violence.
But the question of whether Ramsey is or is not a hero—a term he himself rejects—is ultimately not the most helpful or important, especially when we recall that all those we like to call “heroes” are, in fact, flawed human beings, even if those flaws are never exposed. As a fixed category, the notion of a “hero” applies to very few people in the American imagination—mainly to those who put on a military uniform—and a man like Charles Ramsey fits much more neatly in the public mind into a different fixed category—not just “felon,” with all its permanent implications, but “criminal,” a label automatically assigned to black men. In particular, the notion that black men who have committed violent acts cannot change and should be forever defined by that violence is what fuels our harshest prison policies. If there’s any value in the current debate over Ramsey’s “checkered past,” to me, it is that so many people are daring to suggest that a man who went to prison for a series of violent crimes can be more than that; that people are more than the worst things they have ever done.
Nowhere is this concept more absent than in our criminal justice system, which has lengthened sentences, foreclosed on parole and made pardons a near impossibility. Although the problem of mass incarceration has entered the public consciousness, thanks largely to the excesses of the drug war, the harshest penalties for violent crime (or those labeled “violent” because of any number of aggravating factors) continue to go unquestioned. For anyone who takes prison reform seriously, or is aware of the aging prisoner population, this should be a problem. “The reality is that close to half of the national growth in imprisonment since 1980 consists of increased punishment for ‘violent’ crime,” Berkelely law professor Jonathan Simon has written. “If we are to cut into that growth, and just as importantly, permanently reduce the public appetite to punish drug users and other non-violent prisoners, we need to revisit the policies that send so many to prison for so long.”
But even criminal justice reformers, for understandable reasons, tend to shy from taking on punishments for people who commit violent acts. Legislation across the country is aimed primarily at “nonviolent offenders.” Anti–death penalty activists focus largely on innocent people sent to death row—while widely pushing the next-most-punitive penalty, life without parole, for the guilty. Even behind bars, prisoners serving life without parole have less programming and are less eligible for compassionate release. When it comes to those who commit violent crimes, our most punitive instincts still rein.
Race has everything to do with this. Fear of black criminality continues to drive permanent punishment, based on the idea that African-Americans are less capable of rehabilitation or redemption. So African-American kids are given life sentences at a staggeringly disproportionate rate. So Assata Shakur finds herself on the FBI’s Most Wanted List forty years after the crime for which she was accused, based on the claim that she represents a threat to public safety. So Texas prisoner Duane Buck faces execution date after execution date in part because a state psychologist told jurors that, as a black man, his potential for “future dangerousness” was higher. I recently sat in a Memphis courtroom as a white prosecutor pointed at a black man whom he hoped to send back to death row, imploring jurors not to be fooled by the “well-dressed, well-groomed” man before him. “Not quite the same as he was back then!” he cried, triumphantly, pointing at a sixteen-year-old mugshot of the defendant, confident that the dark image of him in a hoodie would look threatening enough to scare the jury. You can put a black man in a suit, in other words, but underneath it he is still a criminal.
Some criminals, like some heroes, are allowed to be complex, as we are reminded in the wake of mass shootings committed by white men who are immediately scrutinized for signs of mental illness. Confusion and debate over what Ramsey really is—criminal or hero (or jolly Internet meme)—shows how little complexity we afford people like him. It may have taken an extraordinary action, the saving of three white girls, to make him worthy of people’s collective empathy—and it’s certainly likely that if his criminal record included, say, first-degree murder that this empathy would largely evaporate. But if we more broadly applied the logic of legions who have lept to his defense as a changed man, if we started thinking that more people might be worthy of a second chance, we might start to change the conversation around prisons and sentencing.
Every day behind prison walls, inmates—some elderly, some caring for them—wonder, like Christopher Knafelc, if they, too, are “good” people; if they, too might have contributed something to the world if they had been given the chance to try again. Charles Ramsey did. Can we dare to imagine that there are many others like him?
Youth activists from across Florida are rising up to defend a pushed-out high schooler from Polk County. Read more at StudentNation.
Students from around the country demand coal divestment at Brown University. (Kevin Proft/ecoRI News.)
Students from New York to Boston rallied May 3 with Brown Divest Coal activists on Brown University’s main green, demanding that President Christina Paxson and The Corporation of Brown University vote on whether to divest the college’s $2.5 billion endowment from the 15 largest coal companies in the United States during an upcoming May 23 meeting. Rally organizers provided the 150 attendees with symbolic orange ballots to cast into the “smokestack” of the ballot box, a miniature coal-powered plant made from a cardboard box with a big X on its side.
Before casting their ballots, many students explained why halting climate change mattered to them. “If we do not take action, one billion people will be displaced by climate change by the end of the century,” Brown University freshman Tammy Jiang said. “We cannot let that happen.”
A student from Tufts University voiced frustration that colleges with huge endowments are investing in the fossil-fuel industry. “Those investments are undercutting our ability to create a livable society," he said.
Lucy Bates-Campbell, a Brown University senior, cast her ballot while cradling Roxy, her pet dog. Most animals will not be immune to climate change, Bates-Campbell said, so we need to help protect the animals that can’t protect themselves.
The theme of unity among divestment activists was present throughout the rally. “All divestment campaigns are interconnected,” said a student from New York’s Columbia University. “We are here for a rally at Brown, and we need you to be at Columbia’s rallies.”
Nick Katkevich, representing the University of Rhode Island’s new fossil fuel-divestment campaign, said his group will build capacity during the summer, then work with Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design to push for divestment on Rhode Island campuses next fall. URI’s campaign will be coordinated with students at Rhode Island College and Community College of Rhode Island, because all three schools share one endowment.
The rally regularly broke into chants about climate change and divestment. Hand-painted cardboard signs were abundant. After casting their symbolic ballots, the students marched across the green to the administration building, where Paxson’s office is located. Two Brown Divest Coal representatives were sent to request that Paxson address the crowd; Paxson declined.
Before the rally ended, Brown University junior Dara Illowsky held up a handmade sign with Paxson’s office telephone number painted on it. “I want you all to take out your phones and add this number to your contacts,” she said.
Rally organizers asked each attendee to call the president soon and tell her their views about divesting from coal.
On April 29, Divest RISD transformed from a relatively small college divestment movement to a high-profile campaign attracting attention from 350.org’s Bill McKibben and “This American Life’s” Ira Glass, who will feature the group on an upcoming program.
As previously reported, Emma Beede, leader of Divest RISD, took a top-down approach when establishing RISD’s divestment campaign. Before rallying student support, Beede and a handful of student volunteers met with RISD’s faculty, administration and financial decision makers to introduce the concept of fossil-fuel divestment.
After securing unanimous support from the faculty and experiencing opposition from the board of trustees, Beede began asking the student body to get involved. Despite what Beede described as “a lack of an activist culture at RISD,” Divest RISD has caught on among students.
During Divest RISD’s April 29 Day of Action some 150 students gathered on the “RISD Beach,” between Waterman, Benefit and Angell streets, then marched to RISD’s administration downtown building on Washington Street.
About and hour prior to the rally, Beede and 10 Divest RISD members marched into RISD President John Maeda’s office. According to Beede, Maeda wasn’t there, but the students informed his secretary that they wouldn’t leave the president’s office until the board of trustees agreed to hear Divest RISD’s case during its May 17 meeting.
Beede said she and her fellow protestors then contacted the hundreds of people who signed the Divest RISD petition to bring attention to the sit-in and encourage them to join.
The sit-in lasted 24 hours, during which the participants met with administrators and the president. After securing a chance to make the case for fossil-fuel divestment at the upcoming meeting, the protestors vacated the president’s office.
RISD’s sit-in was the first of its kind for the fossil fuel-divestment movement that has been spreading throughout the country since last summer.
At semester’s end, many leaders involved with campus divestment campaigns will graduate.
Nathan Bishop of Brown Divest Coal graduates this month. He will move home to Chicago and start applying to law school. Bishop wants to work on climate-change policy and legislation.
Bishop said he will stay involved with the fossil fuel-divestment movement. He plans to join Chicago’s divestment campaigns, and continue helping with Brown Divest Coal in some capacity.
Beede, leader of Divest RISD, is also graduating. Beede’s future plans depend on where she finds a job, but she said she will continue to call for divestment regardless of her geographic location. She said she will get involved in local campaigns and continue to help with Divest RISD.
According to student leaders from Brown, RISD and URI, each divestment campaign will concentrate on building capacity this summer. Jiang said she and others activists from Brown Divest Coal will attend a summer conference in New Jersey to learn and share strategies with other campus divestment campaigns.
Brown Divest Coal activists expect The Corporation of Brown University to vote in favor of divestment from coal later this month, after which the campaign will expand its demands to include divesting from the rest of the fossil-fuel industry.
Divest RISD activists will present at the May 17 board of trustees meeting. Divest RISD hopes to secure a vote from the board on divestment during its October meeting, according to Beede, who said Divest RISD has freshman, sophomores and juniors ready to continue the campaign after she graduates.
Meanwhile, URI, CCRI and RIC’s campaign is in its fledgling stages, and will aim to gain traction during the fall semester. Stay tuned.
Immigrant detainees are patted down at a detention center in Broadview, Illinois. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)
As lawmakers begin to offer largely draconian amendments to the Gang of Eight’s proposed immigration reform legislation, Vice President Biden has announced that he hopes the bill will pass by the end of the summer. Because deportations haven’t been suspended, that means that some one million people may be deported between January and August of this year—the time between which the bill was introduced and may finally be endorsed by Congress. All of those deportees will first make their way through immigrant detention, where some will face death before deportation.
Arizona houses five immigrant detention centers—and illustrates the conglomeration of public and private interests that make up this detention system. Four of those centers are located in Florence, with another about a half-hour drive away in Eloy. One is run by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, another is managed in a jail by a local sheriff’s office and three are privately owned and operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Because immigrant detainees are facing civil—not criminal—cases, detention centers are, by definition, not punishment. But conditions suggest that this particular type of captivity is indeed penalizing.
CCA’s Eloy Detention Center has long been under scrutiny for what human rights advocates say are conditions that lead to nearly a dozen deaths in less than a decade. Suicide is not a new phenomenon in this facility, but two recent apparent suicides in the course of just three days are once again drawing attention to Eloy. Twenty-four-year-old Elsa Guadalupe González, originally from Guatemala, had been detained at Eloy since March 20. Authorities say that on April 28, a fellow detainee found that she hanged herself. Forty-year-old Jorge Mario García Mejía, also originally from Guatemala, arrived at Eloy on March 22, and authorities said he also hanged himself, on April 30. ICE says it’s looking into the apparent suicides.
Guatemala is demanding an exhaustive investigation. Spanish language press is reporting that foreign affairs officials have stated that two people dying two days apart in apparent suicides in one detention center sounds a serious alarm. And although the US has responded that it will take the apparent suicides seriously, not everyone is convinced. One Guatemalan government official, Alejandra Gordillo, says that she’s worried that the deaths won’t be investigated, and that what may appear to be two suicides may in fact be “racist acts against Guatemalan migrants.” But whether the deaths are the result of coincidental suicides or something more sinister is unclear, since Eloy operates without independent supervision and federal authorities have not been very forthcoming about previous dubious deaths at the center.
Two of the eight authors of the Senate’s immigration bill hail from Arizona—where, aside from targeting immigrants through the use of racial profiling, the hodgepodge system of detention puts people’s lives in jeopardy at an unnecessarily high cost. Detention Watch is calling for Senators McCain and Flake to shut down Eloy and release detainees before more tragedy strikes.
In recent posts, we discussed the views of (London’s) Sunday Times cryptic crossword editor, Peter Biddlecombe, on definitions: the possibility of cryptic clues in which the definition is at neither the beginning nor the end, and the validity of defining by example. Today, we conclude this series with Biddlecombe’s ideas about compound anagram clues.
We offered a basic introduction to anagrams in this post. Later, we presented our thoughts about anagram aesthetics. But anagrams are one of the mainstays of cryptic construction, so there is yet more to say!
Normally, in US cryptics, anagram fodder is expected to be in one consecutive string, perhaps interrupted by spaces. That constraint makes anagram clues both easier to spot and easier to solve: If you’re looking for a seven-letter answer, you search through the clue for a seven-letter string that might be the anagram fodder, then look on either side of it for a plausible anagram indicator. Thus, anagrams can offer a good entry point into the puzzle. They are a beginner’s friend, and in a tough puzzle they are every solver’s friend.
Nonetheless, an experienced solver may enjoy a break with those expectations, and appreciate the opportunity to discover anagram fodder that is broken up into two or more chunks. Biddlecombe gives these examples:
Slope: garden with it is dodgy (8)
This clue disguises the anagram fodder by requiring us to convert “garden with it” into “garden, it.”
(The answer is GRADIENT.) Because the cryptic reading of such a clue is entirely consistent and logical, we can see no objection to this sort of structure—other than the fact it’s not done (or not done much) in the US. And as readers of our blog and solvers of our puzzles probably know by now, that would not be a convincing argument to us.
Bacon and ham sandwich initially prepared in carriage (6, 3)
This time, the anagram fodder is “bacon,” “ham” and the initial S of “sandwich,” giving us HANSOM CAB.
Again, the cryptic reading for this clue does work, so we don’t see that as a reason to reject it. What makes it debatable, perhaps, is that “sandwich initially” requires an extra step: translate the phrase to an S, and add that to the fodder before anagramming. However, this is such a straightforward step that we are perfectly willing to accept it. We have not used this sort of clue in the past, but we might in the future.
One final example from Biddlecombe:
Awful meal, zero marks—it may make folk take to the street (5,5)
Here, we have to convert zero to O before combining it with “meal” and “marks” to make SMOKE ALARM.
Something normally not allowed is the “indirect anagram,” which requires you to correctly interpret a definition for all or part of the fodder.[…] You might ask whether “zero = O” […] isn’t also indirect. It is, but the replacement is a familiar one and only affects one letter of the fodder.
To us, this is a borderline case. There is no indicator that we are looking for a one-character replacement for “zero,” and given US cryptic tradition, the result is quite difficult. If we came up with a clue along these lines, we might try it out with our test solvers first to gauge whether it is acceptable.
How do you feel about compound anagram clues such as the above? Please share your thoughts here, along with any quibbles, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle or any previous puzzle. To comment (and see other readers’ comments), please click on this post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the resulting screen.
And here are three links:
• The current puzzle
• Our puzzle-solving guidelines
• A Nation puzzle solver’s blog where you can ask for and offer hints, and where every one of our clues is explained in detail.